Wednesday, 07 March 2018 17:38

Science is for conservation of marine mammals


Last year, 86 scientists from around the world signed a declaration in the defense of conservation of the dolphins. Unlike what some might think, these are not primarily employees of zoos or their associated foundations: which together would represent approx. 20 signatures of the total.

The largest groups are scientists and independent experts. The vast majority of signatories are employees of similar independent universities and institutions, from Harvard to St. Andrews and Berlin. The list is called “Who Is Who” of the marine mammal researchers nowadays.

marine mammal researchers nowadays.

Thousands of visitors are reached each day by Loro Park with its educational Orcashows.

What do scientists say about marine mammal conservation?

"We, the undersigned members of the scientific community, want to acknowledge the importance of marine mammals in zoos and aquariums, as well to express our support for the research carried out at these facilities. We know that the key research results come from dolphin studies and related species originated in captivity, where the vast majority of what is known about their perception, physiology, and cognition has been researched.

This includes basic facts about these animals (such as echolocation and how it works, diving physiology, energetics, gestation time, audibility range, signature whistles and so on) but also applied information on how to respond to environmental stress and how to diagnose and treat their illnesses.

The benefits of this research go far beyond animals in zoological facilities. The  data interpretation from field studies is based on what we have learned about the cognition and physiology of these animals in captivity. In addition, the research results from these animals contribute to our collective understanding of the animal kingdom because science is inherently a collaborative venture.

Finally, research in captivity impacts on conservation efforts: a) providing the essential information necessary to develop conservation plans and practices (e.g., typical respiratory rates, metabolic rates, pregnancy length, hearing and thresholds, etc.), (b) documenting physiological and behavioral responses to environmental stress such as noise and pollution to inform population managers, and (c) developing and testing techniques and tools for evaluating animals in the field.

The advances that have come from research in marine mammal surveys have not come from animal studies in the wild. Field studies are crucial, but many research questions are not possible to answer in remote discovery.

Studies on pregnancy, births, and in detail supervised calf development, require a close and consistent observation that is possible only in zoological facilities. The hypothesis testing required for questions on cognition, perception, and physiology precise of the ability to confront animals with specific situations and challenges that provide the necessary controls, consistency, and repetition that are impossible to achieve in the wildness.

In fact, as with research in any discipline, a comprehensive understanding of these animals requires a combination of in situ and ex situ studies; Studies in the wild as well in zoological facilities. This idea is neither new nor specific to marine mammals, but the decisive factor is the manner of how scientific research works.

The Vancouver Aquarium also published this statement on its blog.

Animals in captivity is important for science and species conservation

More than 80 experts agreed for the need of facilities such as Dolphinariums, because it is the only way to do extensive research to help the conservation of wild species.

This is especially important in times of pollution, overfishing and destruction of marine habitats.

There are few scientists who are hired or otherwise affiliated with zoo opponents and / or Dolphinarium organizations that doubt this.

But they are not independent. Independent scientists who are against marine mammal conservation and have proven expertise in the field are not known. Animal rights activists always show the same level of staff, as they are about 20 people who have issued a similar document against the attitude of marine mammals in Canada.

For example, if we want to do research about catching and want to reduce it, we need animals in captivity for the important basic research, and also the initial measures testing. As we can notice on this example: research in captivity is irreplaceable and is the pillar for species and nature conservation.